State o/b/o Benford v. Bryant. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-07-1096, 7 pp.) (Robert C. Hunter, J.) Appealed from Carteret County District Court. (Jerry F. Waddell, J.) N.C. App. Click here for the full text of the opinions.
Holding: The trial court did not have the legal authority to reduce the amount of arrearage that accrued under a Michigan child support judgment under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. The court must give full faith and credit to support payments accrued and vested under the Mich. judgment.
A Mich. court entered a divorce judgment, awarded custody of five children to the mother and ordered the father to pay child support in the amount of $486 a month.
The mother moved to Carteret County and registered the judgment there. Following registration, the county child support agency moved to intervene and ultimately obtained an order requiring the father to pay an additional $100 per month until an arrearage that had accrued was fully paid.
The state appealed on behalf of the mother.
The state argued that the trial court’s order determining the amount of child-support arrears owed by the father under the Michigan judgment wholly contradicts the dictates of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) G.S. § 52C-1-100 to G.S. § 52-9-902.
UIFSA is used as a procedural mechanism for the establishment, modification and enforcement of child and spousal support obligations.
Under UIFSA, once a foreign support order is registered and confirmed by the courts of the responding state, as the Mich. judgment was here, enforcement is compulsory.
Under G.S. § 52C-3-305(b)(4), UIFSA authorizes the trial court to determine the amount of any arrears, and to specify a method of payment. In calculating the amount of arrears, the court must determine what arrearage has vested.
If the law of the state issuing the support order provides that the past-due child-support amounts are vested, the courts of the state in which the foreign support order is registered are required to give full faith and credit to the other state’s order and enforce the past-due support obligation.
Mich. law provides that payments due under a support order vest when they accrue. A support judgment is not, on and after the date it is due, subject to retroactive modification.
The Mich. judgment is entitled to full faith and credit and is conclusive as to amounts past due.
The trial court found that the father failed to make 10 monthly payments, totaling $4,860. Trying to be fair, the trial court ordered the father to pay only the amount due for the six-month period starting after the registration of the Mich. judgment, totaling $2,916. This the court could not do.
As $4,860 in monthly support payments had accrued under the Mich. judgment and vested under Mich. law, the trial court was not free, consistent with full faith and credit, to find any other figure as the father’s debt under the Mich. judgment.
We reverse the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this decision.